K-pop fandoms help drive COVID-19 public health messaging on social media

Herbert Chang, Assistant Professor of Quantitative Social Science, just published an article, "Parasocial diffusion: K-pop fandoms help drive COVID-19 public health messaging on social media," in Science DirectDartmouth College covered this article as well, and you can read this coverage here. According to Professor Chang, "Fandoms can act as powerful catalysts for online and offline collective action."

The abstract of the article is as follows:

We examine an unexpected but significant source of positive public health messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic—K-pop fandoms. Leveraging more than 7 million tweets related to mask-wearing and K-pop between March 2020 and December 2021, we analyzed the online spread of the hashtag #WearAMask and vaccine-related tweets amid anti-mask sentiments and public health misinformation. Analyses reveal the South Korean boyband BTS as one of the most significant driver of health discourse. Tweets from health agencies and prominent figures that mentioned K-pop generate 111 times more online responses compared to tweets that did not. These tweets also elicited strong responses from South America, Southeast Asia, and interior States—areas often neglected by mainstream social media campaigns. Network and temporal analysis show increased use from right-leaning elites over time. Mechanistically, strong-levels of parasocial engagement and connectedness allow sustained activism in the community. Our results suggest that public health institutions may leverage pre-existing audience markets to synergistically diffuse and target under-served communities both domestically and globally, especially during health crises.

Professor Chang graduated from Dartmouth in 2018, received his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 2023, and joined QSS this past July.  He is currently teaching QSS 20 (Modern Statistical Computing).